Ohio Astronauts Celebrate NASA's 50th Anniversary
An all-star gathering of legendary American astronauts appeared in Cleveland August 29, 2008 to celebrate NASA's 50th anniversary. John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth, Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, Jim Lovell, veteran of two Apollo missions, and Kathryn Sullivan, the first woman to walk in space joined 15 other astronauts from Ohio.
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The Ohio aerospace community hosted the event to celebrate 50 years of NASA innovation, inspiration, and discovery, the achievements of NASA's Glenn Research Center, and to salute Ohio's astronauts.
Glenn, a former Ohio senator, was the honorary chairman of the event and veteran NBC News Space Correspondent Jay Barbree, the only journalist to cover every manned space launch in the United States, was the keynote speaker.
Barbree moderated "A Conversation with the Astronauts," during which the 19 astronauts in attendance reminisced about their spaceflight experiences. When asked about the courage it takes to be an astronaut, Lovell referred to the Apollo 13 mission that almost ended in disaster. "Sometimes when confronted with a problem that has no immediate solution, you must either summon the courage to continue or you're lost."
Dr. Woodrow Whitlow, director of NASA Glenn, was delighted to be among Ohio's most accomplished citizens. "I feel extremely lucky, as a boy from the suburbs of Detroit, to be able to sit at a table with the commander of Apollo 13, the first American to orbit Earth and the first man to set foot on the moon."
Twenty-eight astronauts call the Buckeye State home, making Ohio one of the most prolific producers of astronauts. No doubt the illustrious careers of Glenn, Lovell and Armstrong inspired many of the Ohioans who followed in their footsteps.
"Growing up in Ohio, we heard a lot about John Glenn and Neil Armstrong. I did a report on John Glenn in school. So they influenced me a lot and inspired my interest," said astronaut Mike Foreman, the most recent space traveler.
Asked about what advice the panel would give young people who want to be astronauts, Mary Ellen Weber responded, "Be an opportunity seeker. That's what led me to the astronaut corps. I joined a skydiving club when I was a student at Purdue University. I was simply seeking a new opportunity. I had no idea it would eventually lead me here."
Nearly 600 people attended the event. Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, in presenting a special proclamation, boasted, "Our nation's first space heroes were Ohioans."
Jan Wittry and Nancy Smith Kilkenny (SGT, Inc.)